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Is Instagram ruining our enjoyment of food?

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Sarah Biddlecombe
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A new set of meal kits promises to deliver “Instagram-worthy” meals. But shouldn’t we care more about how the food tastes, or whether it’s good for us?

We’ve all done it: snapping a plate of food that we’ve ordered in a restaurant or cooked ourselves at home, before uploading the photo to Instagram and waiting for the likes to (hopefully) roll in.

But how many of us have ordered or cooked food specifically because it would look good on Instagram, choosing a meal that would photograph well rather than considering how it would taste, or whether its actually good for us?

Unless you’re an influencer or work in the food industry, it’s unlikely that you’ve ever gone for style over substance when it comes to food. However, a new meal kit has just launched with the promise of allowing you to cook beautiful, Instagram-worthy feasts at home – and while the food may indeed be tasty and nutritious, the meals are marketed directly for the purposes of taking photos.

Is your pasta perfect enough for Instagram?

The kits are created by top chef Skye Gyngell, who opened Spring in Somerset House in 2014, in collaboration with La Famiglia Rana, an Italian pasta brand. There are six kits available, with each one delivering everything you need to create a tortelloni dish.

Described by the team as having “everything foodies need for the ultimate Instagram-worthy content” and promising a “feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds”, the kits could turn your kitchen into a veritable Instagram photography studio. They even come with a “hand painted artisanal spoon”, presumably to rake in the likes for anyone who enjoys photos of the more rustic variety.

While the kits are hardly the first foodie venture to cater for our social media obsessed times (some restaurants now even highlight dishes that would look good in photos on their menus), are they the sign of a more worrying trend?

Cooking should be about a joy of food - not social media

This is a topic that chef and author Nigella Lawson touched on last year, when she told Stylist, “Obviously, colourful food is a big feature of Instagram, but I think that’s something that can be both inspiring and problematic. 

“In a way, Instagram is a wonderful form of social history, if people are taking pictures of all food,” she continued. “I am aware that it can’t just be the province of people who style well, have a good camera and know how to light. But it’s difficult, because it’s human nature. If you take a picture and it doesn’t look good, you don’t really feel you want to post it.”

And this is the heart of the issue – we shouldn’t be taking all our enjoyment from food based on how good it looks in a photo, and worrying that the slightly wobbly pie or almost-burned vegetables on our plate don’t look “perfect” in a photo.

“I think those pictures should be posted, but Instagram can make people feel that it has to be perfect,” Lawson added. “I posted a stew recently and it got far fewer likes than other things I post. But it doesn’t matter. Someone did comment, saying, ‘That looks horrible.’ I replied to him and said: ‘That is as may be, but it tastes wonderful.’”

“Colourful food is a big feature of Instagram, but I think that’s something that can be both inspiring and problematic”     

However, Gyngell herself doesn’t believe the kits - or the trend for snapping foodie photos - are anything to be concerned about.

“I personally think what Instagram has done for food is great,” she told Eater London. “Anything that puts beautiful ingredients on a pedestal, or inspires people to be adventurous and creative – and proud of what they’ve prepared – is a wonderful thing.”

Images: Unsplash

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Sarah Biddlecombe

Sarah Biddlecombe is an award-winning journalist and Digital Features Editor at Stylist

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